A few days ago, I did a poll on my Instagram page asking my community what kind of content I could post that would be most helpful right now, during the coronavirus outbreak and when we’re all doing our best to practice social distancing. While many of you said you’d like to see easy meals and recipes, many of you also said you’d like tips on how to stay positive and centered while you’re practicing social distancing.

I’m working hard to bring easy meals and recipes to you, like the Nourish Bowl recipe I shared yesterday on Instagram and which can be made with any whole grain, frozen veggies, a can of beans and any cheese you’ve got on-hand (or you can skip the cheese if you prefer). Be sure to keep watching my Instagram as that’s where I’m sharing all the easy meals made with pantry ingredients I’m making at home right now.

How to Stay Positive And Centered While Social Distancing

While I’m still trying to figure out the best way to live my life now that we’re all sheltered in place for the next few weeks/months/who knows, to stay positive while I’m social distancing, I’m clinging to some of the practices and rituals that have consistently helped me through other challenging experiences in my life.

And you know what? They’re really helping now, too. So here are my personal tips to stay positive while social distancing…

1. Move your body

This will help you to feel good mentally and emotionally. Movement helps you to work any nervous energy, stress or anxiety through and out of your body, it helps to settle your emotions and it helps you feel more grounded. Just do whatever feels good to you, whether that’s stretching, yoga, HIIT, body weight exercises or going outside for a walk, jog or bike ride. Movement truly is medicine and will help to support your health across the board — cardiovascular health, digestive health, bone health, immune function, healthy mind and mood, better sleep and more.

If you’re feeling like it’s hard for you to get going with exercise right now because your energy is low, let me remind you of one of my favorite mottos: Energy breeds energy. One of the best ways to beat fatigue and boost energy is to exercise, so go get moving! Personal tip: I don’t like doing the same thing every day, so I’ve been rotating through yoga, strength training using body weights, light free weights or bands, HIIT and walking outside when the weather permits. (Check out my Fitness story highlights for some of my favorite home workouts.) And there are so many great, free workouts all over Instagram right now.

2. Go outside as much as possible

Mother Nature is the ultimate healing force and as I heard someone say the other day, “Nature is never cancelled.” Not even during the coronavirus outbreak. Being outside in nature has been shown to reduce the symptoms of stress and lower levels of cortisol in the body (cortisol is a stress hormone that can damage our bodies when our levels stay high). Get outside and pay attention to the sound of the birds, the movement of the wind and the feeling of sunlight on your skin. Take in the beauty of all the flowers and trees that are thriving and blooming. And remember that another benefit of being outside, especially as the days get longer and warmer, is that we’re exposed to vitamin D from sunlight, which can help to boost the immune system.

3. Nourish your body with healing foods

I know we’re all feeling the urge to stress eat (or drink) right now. And while some non-nutritious foods are okay, our bodies very much need nourishment and nurturing during this time of stress. To me, one of the best ways to nourish and nurture our bodies is with whole, healthy foods. We need to feel grounded right now, and foods from the earth (read: unprocessed foods) can help with that as well. Think veggies, whole grains, organic poultry and fish if you choose to eat it, organic dairy if you can tolerate it, fruits, nuts and seeds and natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup and stevia. Some junky foods are okay, but in moderation. Your body will thank you for the extra TLC with all the extra stress that it’s under.

We also want to practice conscious or mindful eating, which is a concept I learned from Dr. Deepak Chopra’s book What Are You Hungry For. Conscious or mindful eating is when we’re mindful in keeping our mind-body connection intact while eating, instead of just unconsciously eating out of the bag or box while distracted or upset. When you’re eating the quarantine snacks, stay in tune around when you’re beginning to feel full, and stop eating before you overdo it with food. It’s not healthy for us to “numb out” while eating or to overeat regularly. Instead of stress eating, do this instead…

4. Take some time every day to be quiet and still

I believe that the message we’re all being sent right now is to rest and go inward a bit more than many of us are comfortable with. Staying busy is often a distraction from taking a look at our real feelings and emotions on a day to day basis. When we’re constantly busy and on the go go go, it’s easier to ignore the signs from your body and your soul that something isn’t right. Take some time every day to just be still and quiet: read a book, sit outside and watch/listen to the birds, sit or lie down with your eyes closed and just breathe deeply while noticing any areas of tension or tightness in your body, pray, journal, take a hot bath in total silence, etc. Now really is such a great time to pay attention to what you’ve maybe been missing, and to go deeper into your own heart and soul and learn more about who you are.

5. Do that thing you’ve been wanting to do (but never seemed to have the time!)

What if you used this abundance of downtime to implement something you’ve been wanting to start for some time, but just never could really find the time for? Like that meditation practice, learning to cook a few healthy and easy dishes in the kitchen, painting, writing, journaling, learning to sew or starting a yoga practice? NOW is a great time to do the things you’ve been wanting to do or learn because you have so MUCH time! And so many people are being so generous with their talents and sharing them freely on social media. Find someone who teaches what it is you want to learn, and follow their lead. You’ll come out of this coronavirus ordeal with a positive new habit or an interesting new skill!

6. Honor your circadian rhythm and prioritize sleep

I know how easy it is to just say, “To heck with my normal routines,” and stay up late every night. But let me remind you that getting good nightly sleep is an important way to help keep your immune system strong and robust. Please understand that I’m not saying sleep is a way to prevent or cure the coronavirus, or any other sickness or disease. But sleep is necessary to keep your immune system running properly. It’s important to get at least 7.5 if not 8 hours of sleep each night.

Your circadian rhythm is your body’s internal clock and regulates your body’s sleep and wake cycles, and understanding your body’s circadian rhythm is the most important thing you can do for better, more restful, more restorative sleep. It’s important to follow your body’s natural cues regarding when to go to sleep and when to wake up. If you do this, your circadian rhythm should stay balanced. But a change in your schedule can disrupt your body’s internal clock. So while you’re staying home during the coronavirus outbreak, consider keeping your normal sleep/wake cycle as much as possible. Keep the same bedtime and wake time as you usually do to help your circadian rhythm in check. Most sleep experts say it’s okay to vary your bedtime and wake time by 30 or 45 minutes, but no more than an hour. If you’re used to waking up at 5:30am, consider waking at least by 6:00 or 6:15am even while you’re home during the outbreak. Same goes with bedtime. Honoring your body’s circadian rhythm will help your immune system but also help to keep your energy high, your mood more positive and you’ll feel better overall.

7. Focus on people and connections

Human beings need each other. When humans feel lonely and isolated, we aren’t as happy and we aren’t as healthy. Connection is a huge part of who we are. With that said, during these times when we all must isolate physically, we can connect with each other in other ways. Check in with your loved ones. Make it a point to call one person you love but whom you can’t see, every single day. Don’t text. Call them, so you can hear the sound of your loved one’s voice. Research has shown that hearing someone’s voice over the phone has the ability to lower our stress levels and boost oxytocin. (Oxytocin is a hormone that plays a role in social bonding, sexual reproduction, childbirth and the period after childbirth.) So when you’re feeling stressed out by all this, sit down for a chat with your partner or your kids, or pick up the phone and call a friend or family member that you can’t see in person right now.

Would you add anything to this list? How are you staying positive and centered during this time of social distancing? I’d love to hear in the comments below. Stay well, friends. Love, Elizabeth

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